HoMA Select

Ku‘u Hae Aloha (My Beloved Flag)

On view until January 16, 2022 in the exhibition Artists of Hawai‘i Now, this quilt, which inspired Andy Behrle’s contemporary digital work by the same name, has a fascinating history.

Flags may represent governments, institutions, ideologies, or individuals, and as such, are often revered objects. The beloved symbol of the Hawaiian flag, which has flown unchanged through five separate forms of government, has also been incorporated into many different types of work, including quilts.

Hawaiian flag quilts originated sometime before 1870; they combined the artistry of patchwork and appliqué quilting into complex works of art. Demand for them increased after the illegal overthrow of the monarchy, during the Republic of Hawai‘i era (1893–1898), and continued after the 1898 annexation of Hawai‘i by the United States.

By the early 20th century, there were significant German communities on the islands of O‘ahu and Kaua‘i. The German-speaking Lutheran Church of Honolulu was founded in 1900 by notable Hawai‘i families, including Hackfeld, Pflueger, and Isenberg. Due to circumstances surrounding World War I, the Lutheran congregation was looking for an American pastor. In 1916, Reverend Arthur Hörmann moved with his wife Maria from Wisconsin to Hawai‘i to become pastor of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. He also served as a pastor in Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i.

Ku‘u Hae Aloha was gifted to the museum by Helmuth Hörmann (1909–2001), the second child of Reverend and Mrs. Hörmann. Hörmann graduated from the University of Hawai‘i in 1929, and studied in Berlin thereafter, but left in 1933 when the Nazi Party came to power. He continued his studies at the University of Hawai‘i, Yale University, and Cornell University, where he received his PhD in 1941. He taught at many schools across the United States, including locally at Chaminade University and Leeward Community College.

The quilt may have been presented to the Hörmann family by a congregation member as a way of welcoming them to their new home. It was likely passed on to young Helmuth when he left to study abroad, and it was probably a comforting reminder of home on many a cold night far away from Hawai‘i.

— E. Tory Laitila, Curator of Textiles and Historic Arts of Hawai‘i

 

Ku‘u Hae Aloha (My Beloved Flag), late 19th to early 20th century
Hawaiian flag quilt; cotton, hand piecing, appliqué, and quilting
Gift of Mr. Helmut Hörmann, 1989 (5783.1)

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